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The evolution of TouchWiz: 5 years of change

Posted: , by Victor H.

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The evolution of TouchWiz: 5 years of change
Samsung’s TouchWiz custom user interface that runs on top of Android is now so popular that you’d be forgiven to think that’s the way Google designed its platform to look. It's not - the stock version of Android differs hugely from TouchWiz - but did you know that Samsung’s custom skin has also evolved hugely in the past more than four years?

TouchWiz first debuted on the original Samsung Galaxy S in 2010. This very first mass-adopted version had already undergone prior development and launched as TouchWiz 3.0. Interestingly, it then ran on Android 2.1 Eclair, and later on - Android 2.2 Froyo.

Then, the Galaxy S II arrived bringing an hugely-redesigned TouchWiz 4.0, the first version of the skin to support hardware acceleration. It was this exact version that first started adding those typical for Samsung fancy (but often times gimmicky as well) gestures and motions. On the Galaxy S II, you could place two fingers on the display and tilt it in and out to zoom in and out in images for instance.

The following Samsung Galaxy S III brought even more such features in the completely refashioned TouchWiz Nature UX. The year was 2012 and the S III was the launchpad for the now signature Samsung water-ripple effect and similarly ‘organic’ system sounds. The new features it brought included eye-tracking with Smart Stay that turns off the display when you don’t look at it.

Then, the Galaxy S4 included only slight modifications to the Nature UX base Samsung set with the S III. Samsung unveiled the S4 with much fanfare in New York City’s iconic Radio City Hall, and TouchWiz was all about new eye-tracking and motion sensing features.

Finally, we reach the current time where the Galaxy S5 reigns supreme with its refreshed TouchWiz Nature UX 3.0, a hugely evolved skin that stakes keeps the Nature base, but adds elements from Tizen to mix the two design languages. Here is how that evolution of TouchWiz happened throughout the years, all through the lens of Galaxy S series smartphones.

The home screen


From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.


The TouchWiz user interface starts with the home screen, where Samsung has always supported many home panels, while stock Android had stricter limitations for their number. You can see how big of a change to the overall looks of TouchWiz arrived the Nature UX and the Galaxy S III. Samsung overhauled the iconography, changed the way widgets look, and adopted new and more appealing fonts. Until then, we're witnessing a more gradual evolution.

The app drawer


From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.


The app drawer looked like one seriously boring place in the original Galaxy S and the Galaxy S II with its black/dimmed background. Nature UX brought a big change that you can first see in the Galaxy S III, a phone that looks much more cheerful and is actually the first to get rid of the frozen bottom row of icons in the app drawer.

Not just that, the Nature UX also adopted a new way to show widgets - right in the app drawer. Samsung has now rethought this and widgets in the Galaxy S5 are accessible via a long press on the home screen, but not from the app drawer. Here, it is clearer how Samsung seems to be making bigger changes to TouchWiz every two years: first in the S III, and then now, in the S5.

Notifications


From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.


Until the Galaxy S III arrived, the notification dropdown was not a cheerful place to be either with its black and grey color accents, and raw, utilitarian fonts. The S III changes that and brings a handy brightness adjustment slider right below the toggles at the top. With the Galaxy S5, another huge change occurs - the toggles have been completely redesigned, taking clues from the dual-tone design of Samsung's Tizen OS.

From top to bottom are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

From top to bottom are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

Camera


Samsung has always stood out with a camera app that is rich in manual settings, without putting them too much in your face, and that makes it suitable for both enthusiasts who'd prefer to just point and shoot, as well as for enthusiasts who want manual settings.

Interestingly, the camera app evolved differently than the rest of the TouchWiz interface, and all first three Galaxy S smartphones were pretty much alike in terms of camera layout - on the right were the capture buttons and on the left - a list of settings. 

The original Galaxy S still, however, lacked in finer settings. It was the Galaxy S II that significantly increased the number of manual settings and adopted an easy 1-tap access to many of them. However, it still lacked HDR shooting mode, something that seems essential to a camera app nowadays. This changed only in the Galaxy S III, the first Samsung phone to get support for HDR images in the stock camera app.

The big change, however, arrived with the Galaxy S4 that adopted the interface from Samsung's point-and-shoot cameras, and it's shooting modes in particular. This rich variety in shooting modes was something that provides a little more flexibility for users without forcing them to manually set things like ISO, exposures, and so on. Moreover, the S4 also added slow-motion and stop-motion shooting modes that can add a lot of creativity to video recordings.

The Galaxy S5's version of TouchWiz built up on that base, adding new features like selective focus after shots, and also changed the capture icons to round ones. It has also brought back the interface that Samsung used back in the S II with easy, one-tap access to manual settings. 

Moreover, with the S5, for the first time, you can download addition custom shooting modes, developed by others.



Typing: the keyboard experience


From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.


At first look, the keyboard on TouchWiz has not changed all that much from its early days, but look at a bit more depth and you'd see that evolution has certainly not bypassed it. First, with the Galaxy S II, the TouchWiz keyboard got gesture typing support, and two years later, in the Galaxy S4, Samsung added a fifth row with the numbers on top.

Phonebook: all your contacts


From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.

From left to right are the Galaxy S, S II, S III, S4, and S5.


We conclude our look at the evolution of TouchWiz with the phone book that has also grown more streamlined and better optimized throughout the years. You can see how Samsung gradually improved it by first adding search in the Galaxy S II, and then blurred the lines between contacts for more pleasing looks in the S5.

Conclusion


All in all, as all things, TouchWiz has undergone a pretty remarkable evolution since its mass-market debut in 2010 with the original Galaxy S. Now, it's become a skin that incorporates plentiful features and design cues, melding Tizen aesthetics with the signature TouchWiz look. 

How do you like this new fusion and TouchWiz in general?

74 Comments
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posted on 29 Apr 2014, 05:57 35

1. koko1 (Posts: 92; Member since: 03 Dec 2013)


from the ground to the sky *-*
apple needs 7 years to make a simple change in their ui !

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:52 18

41. CyberFalcon (Posts: 73; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)


Great God i thought Samsung didnt make any change till now, but they changed the background image in every version...

Dont forget this samsung haters... :P

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:57 16

42. akki20892 (Posts: 3222; Member since: 04 Feb 2013)


Nothing has change. Except touchwiz versions.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 12:38 1

49. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


lmaooooooooooo

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 05:59 36

2. bokimaricu (Posts: 33; Member since: 21 Dec 2013)


5 years of ugliness and rubbing word "compromise" in your face. Android wasn't meant to be this ugly.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:06 6

5. JC557 (Posts: 817; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)


It's a design Samsung stuck with since Windows Mobile days. I did hate the use of earthy colors in the Droid Charge Touchwiz, especially the brown. Other than that it is a decent skin. It added some functionality in the old Foryo to Gingerbread days but a bit bloated.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:28 4

11. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 2546; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)


Exactly what i was going to comment sire +1

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:37 23

18. koko1 (Posts: 92; Member since: 03 Dec 2013)


ugly ?? if the totchwiz ugly, what is beautiful ui ??
stupid and old fashioned sony & htc ui ? or apple's girlish ui ??

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:41 14

21. andonia2 (Posts: 27; Member since: 26 Jul 2013)


everybody is free to their own opinion dude.........

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:51 13

23. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 2546; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)


Old fashioned huh seriously? Says the touchwiz fanboy. Touchwiz is still stuck in old eclairs days in terms of looks.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 12:50 8

54. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


With every Galaxy I owned since gingerbread GS2 touchwiz look and feel along with its features have always impressed me .. and they have always been updated .. anyways why change it when it's loved by most people?

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:21 2

28. bokimaricu (Posts: 33; Member since: 21 Dec 2013)


I would say stock Android UI. I don't prefer any UI except stock, but TouchWiz is just plain horrid.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:33 7

31. lsutigers (Posts: 694; Member since: 08 Mar 2009)


Take a look at HTC Sense.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:01 8

35. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3857; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)


I would say stock Android and HTC Sense are the best looking variations of Android available. It's all opinions though, you can think Touchwiz looks nice, that's fine, but not everyone will agree with you, me included.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 16:25 1

58. NinjaBanana (Posts: 24; Member since: 20 Apr 2014)


What's wrong with girls? I like girls. They're hot. But you wouldn't know.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:27 10

29. SleepingOz (unregistered)


TW might be ugly to some but when it comes to functionality and features, no other UI comes close!

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:03 7

36. Berzerk000 (Posts: 3857; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)


But all those features and functionality come at a cost; bad performance on anything other than the highest performing hardware. Or at least that was the case a short time ago, we haven't really seen the newer version of Touchwiz on lower grade hardware yet, I hope it's improved.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 12:23

70. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


I have a midrange spec'ed Galaxy Mega 6.3 and everything runs smooth and fast on it. ALL apps ALL games, I mean the 16 Gbs are full. Never had any lag or any bad performance .. You people like to invent stuff .. seriously now.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 18:45 2

62. __0__ (Posts: 208; Member since: 07 Jan 2014)


I have the GS1 , GS2 and Note 3 .
The touchwiz on the GS1 is unbearable really , once I went with Cyanogen mod I didn't want to go back .
Touchwiz 4.0 is decent , but still quite ugly and slow compared to cyanogen mod .
Now that I am using the note 3. I am not sure if I want cyanogen mod on my phone anymore .

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:48 13

40. CyberFalcon (Posts: 73; Member since: 17 Apr 2014)


You cant just say like "5 year of ugliness" dude
please be more specific.

The Evolution of TouchWiz

Ugliest < Uglier < very ugly < ugly < still ugly

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 09:30 8

43. ravi5695 (Posts: 45; Member since: 11 Feb 2011)


actually... not ugly but the best ui an android user can get.... i love touchwiz and all its features...

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 16:26 1

59. NinjaBanana (Posts: 24; Member since: 20 Apr 2014)


I hate touchwiz and all it's features! :D

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 10:38 3

46. express77 (unregistered)


Even though it is ugly, its the best thing that happened to android. But they seriously needs to work on both their touchwiz and phone's design.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 12:39 1

50. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


please tell me how the brand you like is selling and how everybody loves it.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 00:53 3

65. refillable (Posts: 552; Member since: 10 Mar 2014)


LG/Google Nexus 5.

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 05:56

67. Adithya7184 (Posts: 298; Member since: 05 Mar 2011)


seriously?? nexus 5???? rofl

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 12:12

69. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


lmaooooo.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 20:20

64. fireblade (Posts: 626; Member since: 27 Dec 2013)


yea, stock KitKat launcher is still better

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:04 26

3. Paviour (Posts: 2; Member since: 20 Nov 2012)


5 years of Rooting and changing Rom...

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:42 1

33. jroc74 (Posts: 4720; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)


Lol...basically. From their UI to dumb decisions they made with the file stsyem that made their early GS phones lag....it was easy to see why many root, ROM folks liked Samsung so much...it was so much to make better by rooting.

Yea...Samsung had the killer specs too, that also helped with their popularity.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 10:39 1

47. express77 (unregistered)


5 years of rooting and deleting bloatwares. No need to change ROM as Launchers works without root.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:06 11

4. wenhuifc (Posts: 1; Member since: 29 Apr 2014)


make another post about sense's evolution and compare it with touchwiz please

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:09 17

6. FriendsOfSamsung (unregistered)


Samsung galaxy is the only android phone worth to be buy, thanks to the featuristic touchwiz interface

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:26 17

10. bokimaricu (Posts: 33; Member since: 21 Dec 2013)


That post gave me cancer.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:38 11

19. koko1 (Posts: 92; Member since: 03 Dec 2013)


see ya in hell then bro :)

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:18 13

27. PapaSmurf (Posts: 7244; Member since: 14 May 2012)


Sense 6 is the only UI I'll ever use besides TouchWiz. There's a G2 in my house and the UI is way too cluttered.

Functionality is where TouchWiz shines.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 12:41 1

51. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


lmaooooooooo says a glorious lg owner :')

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 09:52

68. bokimaricu (Posts: 33; Member since: 21 Dec 2013)


Well my not-so-glorious LG has cyanogenmod 11 (4.4.2) so no LG crap and bloatware on top of it. Unless you are trying to mock me for having a cheap phone, then I would say go for it :)

posted on 30 Apr 2014, 00:54

66. refillable (Posts: 552; Member since: 10 Mar 2014)


ROFLMAO! Me too.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:37 3

17. Orion78 (Posts: 7; Member since: 27 Mar 2014)


Ummm no. Thank God there's other options than dealing with this TW abomination. Friends of Samsung huh? Lmao.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:55 1

34. mrblah (Posts: 389; Member since: 22 Jan 2013)


Yes, Friends, you two are very, very "special" friends.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:11 3

7. GreekGeek (Posts: 300; Member since: 22 Mar 2014)


Still no extra Homescreen customizations like scrolling wallpaper and custom icon/grid alignments.

argh, these_ simple_ things!

I prefer simplicity and straightforwardness over fancy, flashy eyecandy .....MIUI > Touchwiz

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:12 8

8. xsoft7 (Posts: 12; Member since: 12 Dec 2013)


and yet. touchwiz is the only UI to get stuck, no matter what hardware you have, whether it's galasxy s1 or s5. switch to AOSP and suddenly you have a brand NEW and FAST phone!

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:19

9. mercorp (Posts: 966; Member since: 28 Jan 2012)


Touchwiz actually came earlier than that,in Samsung's 2009 feature touchscreen phones

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:29 6

12. CX3NT3_713 (Posts: 1647; Member since: 18 Apr 2011)


I prefer sense, over touchjiz any day..

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:30 14

13. Ishtiaque99 (Posts: 11; Member since: 15 Apr 2014)


Samsung touchwiz Is the best custom UI among all.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:38 8

20. dratomic (Posts: 423; Member since: 09 Oct 2013)


i buy samsung because of tws functionality. i dont know why people who hate it think sammy should listen to them. theyre only a minority.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:51 4

24. Orion78 (Posts: 7; Member since: 27 Mar 2014)


You obviously haven't seen other UIs then.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 12:43

52. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


Yes, because they don't even exist... sadly.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:52 1

25. FriendsOfSamsung (unregistered)


Totally agree

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:31

14. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5362; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)


Thanks Victor for a nice article! :)

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:34 3

15. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 2546; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)


I generally hate OEM skins and just flash cyanogenmod ROM. But i'm impressed by sense 6 its beautiful except the app drawer and task switcher.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:35

16. blingblingthing (Posts: 417; Member since: 23 Oct 2012)


Frank Drebin a contact? Nice :)

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 06:48 1

22. nothingmuch (Posts: 150; Member since: 03 May 2013)


Me personally dont mind TW, its what drew me to Samsung galaxy phones from the beginning! And still with'em!

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:01

26. AfterShock (Posts: 2005; Member since: 02 Nov 2012)


Until OEM make a setting to switch all of OEM GUI to off, I'll do anything I can to avoid those with a GUI.
I know, GPE an Nexus are the solutions, though a setting to shut OEM crap off would be a better solution imo, at least as far as OEM GPE devices go.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:27 6

30. StraightEdgeNexus (Posts: 2546; Member since: 14 Feb 2014)


Cyanogenmod and all other CM based custom ROMs are superior in every way to touchwiz.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 07:37 2

32. Anchorman86 (Posts: 15; Member since: 08 Nov 2013)


TouchWiz makes me have to pee...to me Sense has always been better. Sense 6 is everything an android skin should be. A compliment, not a distraction.

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 12:44 1

53. The13thKing (Posts: 849; Member since: 26 Feb 2014)


what's sense 6? is it a washing machine...?

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:14

37. bestmvno (Posts: 104; Member since: 07 Mar 2014)


I think some important information was left out in regards to the keyboards. Wasn't the s2 keyboard using official swype? The s3 keyboard used Samsungs swype method, and didn't the s4 become swifkey based?

posted on 29 Apr 2014, 08:21 3

38. XaErO (Posts: 133; Member since: 25 Sep 2012)


Touchwiz is a great skin on top of android when it comes to features and easy interface.

But Samsung really need to focus on it's "Performance" ..
it is slow compared to Sony & HTC's UI skins.

I also feel, Samsung need to focus on it's slow UI animations (animations are quite slow).

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